Juffs - Feature Focus in Word Learning

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PI Ben Friedline, Alan Juffs
Start date September 2009
End date July 2010
Learnlab English

L2 learning of derived words

Benjamin Friedline and Alan Juffs

Research Questions Why are ESL learners so poor in their knowledge of English morphology? What are the knowledge components that are the most challenging for learning through normal language exposure? Do learners have a representational problem or a processing problem? Specifically, what instructional interventions can be designed to overcome observed processing differences in L1 and L2 morphology?

Research plan For year 1, the goal of the research is to analyze the knowledge components of ESL learners to lay the groundwork for a hypothesis-based intervention. The research will systematically investigate the components of L2 learners’ knowledge of English derivational morphology to address the following questions:

1) What are the components of L2 derivational knowledge? 2) Are these components different from L1 derivational knowledge? 3) Does L1 matter for the acquisition of derived words in an L2?

Methodology To answer these questions, Friedline has developed a series of tasks that will be used to assess what native English speakers and second language learners know about derived words. These tasks included lexical decision, semantic relatedness, and morphological decomposition. Each of these tasks contained several conditions that tested different components of morphological knowledge. Studies on the acquisition of L1 morphological knowledge (e.g., Carlisle, 2000; Carlisle & Fleming, 2003) were consulted in order to develop these conditions. Each condition is outlined below.

Lexical decision task Explanation: In this task, students were asked to rate words from 1 (not a word) or 6 (definitely a word). All words were morphologically complex (e.g., base + affix). Some of the words were real words in English, while other words were not real words in English. The purpose of this task was to assess if native-speakers were sensitive to the effects of semantic blocking and affix ordering. There were four conditions in this task. The conditions are listed below along with an example to illustrate the types of words that were presented in each condition.

Condition 1: Real words Example: The suffix –able is added to verbs to derive adjectives such as workable or comfortable.

Condition 2: Semantic blocking Example: Even though you can add the affix –able to many verbs to derive adjectives, there are some verbs like arrivable and departable look that do not normally take the suffix –able to form adjectives.

Condition 3: Correct affix ordering Example: There are some bases that can take two affixes. You can add the affix –able to the verb respect to derive the adjective respectable. Then, you can add the affix –ity to respectable to derive the noun respectability.

Condition 4: Incorrect affix ordering Example: In a word like respectability, the word is correct because the affixes are added in the correct order. However, if I add the affix -ity before I add the affix –able, I derive a word like respectitiable. This word is not correct because the affixes are not added in the correct order.

Word relatedness task Explanation: In this task, students were asked to rate words from 1 (not related) to 6 (definitely related). There were five conditions in this exercise.

Condition 1: No relationship in meaning Some words are not related in meaning in any way. The words cat and bus are not related in meaning in any way.

Condition 2: Relationship in meaning Other words are related in meaning. For instance, bank and money are related in that a bank is a place where you deposit your money.

Condition 3: Relationship in meaning with different affixes. This condition contained words with suffixes that were related in meaning. For example, productive (adj.) and production (n.) both share the base produce (v.).

Condition 4: Relationship in orthography only, not meaning There are some words that may look like they are related in meaning because they share the same initial letters. In this condition, students saw words like permanence and permission. These words share the letters p-e-r-m, but are unrelated in meaning.

Condition 5: Relationship in affix only, not meaning In the final condition, students were presented with words that shared the same affix, but were unrelated in meaning. For example, the words reality and curiosity are unrelated in meaning, but share the affix –ity.

Word Analysis Task Explanation: On the Word Analysis Task, students were asked to provide the base word of the word provided. Some of these words consisted of a base and an affix such as musician, which has music as a base. Other words, however, could not be broken down into a base and a affix. For instance, dollar cannot be broken down into doll + ar because dollar is a base form.

Native speakers piloted these tassk in the fall of 2009, and preliminary results are reported for each task in the tables below. A pull out from the ELI in Spring 2010 will collect learner data.

Preliminary Results

Selected References Carlisle, J.F. (2000). Awareness of the structure and meaning of morphologically complex words: Impact on reading. Reading and Writing, 12(3-4), 169-190.

Carlisle, J. F., & Fleming, J. (2003). Lexical processing of morphologically complex words in the elementary years. Scientific Studies of Reading, 7(3), 239-253.

Hay, J., & Baayen, R. H. (2005). Shifting paradigms: gradient structure in morphology. Trends in Cognitive Science, 9, 342-348.

Jiang, N. (2004). Morphological insenstivity in second language processing. Applied Psycholinguistics, 25, 603-634.

Lardiere, D. (2006). Ultimate attainment in second language acquisition: a case study. New York: Routledge

Silva, R., & Clahsen, H. (2008). Morphologically complex words in L1 and L2 processing: evidence from masked priming experiments in English. Bilingualism: Language and cognition, 11, 245-260.